Commonly showcased side by side with peaches, nectarines are a similar, but yet different fruit. The best way to identify the difference between a nectarine and peach is by the lack of fuzz on the nectarine.
Nectarines, like peaches, most likely originated in China more than 2,000 years ago and were cultivated in ancient Persia, Greece and Rome. They were grown in Great Britain in the late 16th or early 17th centuries, and were introduced to America by the Spanish. Today, California grows over 95% of the nectarines produced in the United States.
Nectarines are smaller and smooth skinned golden yellow with large blushes of red. Their yellow flesh has a noticeable pink tinge, with a distinct aroma and a more pronounced flavor. There are more than 100 varieties of nectarine, in freestone and clingstone varieties. In freestone types the flesh separates from the 'pit' easily, while clingstone types cling to the 'pit.' Nectarines are more delicate than peaches and bruise very easily.
Nectarines are low in calories with no sodium or cholesterol.
Ripe fruit are fragrant and give, slightly, to the touch. If they are a under-ripe, leave them at room temperature for 2–3 days to ripen. Look for fruit with smooth unblemished skin. Avoid extremely hard or dull colored fruits and soft fruit with soft, wrinkled, punctured skin.
Nectarines keep for 5 days if stored in a plastic bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
Nectarines can be used and prepared in the same ways as peaches, with no need to peel because they have no fuzz. Leave the skins on when making pies, cobblers and fresh fruit salads, etc.
California nectarines are available from late April and to late August. Almost all of the nectarines available are in California. Chiliean Nectarines are available from late December through early March.